Bright and vibrant sweets

Karen Martini’s bright and vibrant desserts. Photo: Marcel Aucar Bright and vibrant desserts. Photo: Marcel Aucar

Strawberry and pink peppercorn mascarpone cheesecake. Photo: Marcel Aucar; Styling: Karina Du

Strawberry and pink peppercorn mascarpone cheesecake

Pink peppercorns, unrelated to black peppercorns, have distinctive floral, spicy and, yes, peppery notes, but they also have an underlying sweet softness that makes them both a complement and a bright contrast to this rich cheesecake.

250g digestive biscuits

40g unsalted butter, melted

310g castor sugar

500g strawberries, hulled

2 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed (at specialist food stores)

1/2 vanilla bean, cut in slivers

1/2 lemon, juiced and zest finely grated

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp plain flour

Pinch salt

250g mascarpone

4 large eggs

100ml sour cream

50ml cream

1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced or 200C conventional. Grease and line a 25-centimetre spring-form cake tin.

2. Process the biscuits in a food processor to a fine crumb. Transfer to a bowl, add the melted butter and 40 grams of castor sugar and mix until well combined. Press the mixture into the base of the tin in an even layer. Chill while you make the filling.

3. Put the strawberries, half the peppercorns and the slivers of vanilla bean into an ovenproof ceramic dish. Scatter over 150 grams of sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes – the strawberries should be holding their shape, but softened and sitting in syrup.

4. Reduce the oven to 150C fan-forced or 170C conventional.

5. Place the lemon zest, vanilla extract and remaining 120 grams of castor sugar into a food processor and process until combined. Add the flour, salt and mascarpone cheese and process for a few seconds. Add the eggs and lemon juice and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the sour cream and cream, and pulse until combined, but don’t overwork.

6. Using a slotted spoon, place half the strawberries on the biscuit base. Pour the mascarpone filling over the top, shaking gently to settle, and bake for 40-50 minutes. Once cooked, the mix should have a firm wobble to it. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

7. To serve, place remaining strawberries on top, spoon over some syrup (reduced if it’s too runny) and sprinkle over the remaining crushed peppercorns.

Drink Sparkling rosé´

Serves 8

Strawberry galette

This is an elegant, free-form tart for which I like to use a more savoury, sour-cream shortcrust pastry, rather than sweet pastry. Serve warm with cream or at room temperature for afternoon tea.

445g packet sour-cream shortcrust pastry (pre-rolled, I use Careme)

1 egg, whisked

2 tbsp strawberry jam, warmed

400g strawberries, hulled and cut in half-centimetre slices


120g unsalted butter, softened

150g castor sugar

2 eggs

325g almond meal

1 tsp almond essence

1 tbsp plain flour

15ml brandy

1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced or 200C conventional.

2. For the frangipane, cream the butter and sugar in a food processor until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix to combine. Add the almond meal, almond essence, flour and brandy and mix briefly to combine. Spoon into a piping bag with a star nozzle and set aside at room temperature.

3. Lay out the defrosted pastry and cut a dinner-plate-sized disc (about 26 centimetres diameter) from one end. Lay it on a baking tray lined with baking paper and brush with egg. Brush the remaining pastry with egg and cut into strips two centimetres wide.

4. Lay the ribbons of pastry around the outside of the cut round, pleating them as you go, folding the pastry ribbons back in on themselves as you move around to create texture, and with half the width overhanging the edge. Repeat with the remaining strips inside, and slightly overlapping, the first circle.

5. Brush the exposed disc of pastry with half the jam. Pipe in the frangipane mixture in a spiral pattern, covering the base. Tuck the strawberry slices between the lines of frangipane, with the tips pointing up.

6. Bake for 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the frangipane starts to puff and brown. Brush with the remaining jam while still warm. Serve with cream.

Drink Rosehip tea

Serves 6-8

Campari and blood orange jubes

This is a perfect sweet treat after dinner when a glass of sparkling is more your mood than a cup of coffee. The sweet, sour and bitter balance marks these jubes as an adult indulgence. You need a thermometer for this recipe.

400ml blood orange juice, strained

35ml lemon juice, strained

180ml Campari

550g castor sugar, plus extra to serve

12 leaves titanium gelatin (from specialist food stores)

1. In a medium to large stainless steel saucepan, bring the orange juice to a simmer and skim – it’s important to use a large enough saucepan here as the juice will froth and bubble up in the next step.

2. Add the lemon juice, 90ml of the Campari and the sugar and stir until dissolved. Bring to a simmer and cook until the temperature reaches 105C, about five to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

3. Separate the gelatin leaves and soak in cold water for about five minutes. Once the leaves are softened, squeeze out any water in your hands and drop into the still-warm Campari mix with the remaining 90ml of Campari. Stir to dissolve.

4. Line a shallow baking tin or ceramic dish with cling film (mine was about 18cm x 30cm internal size, but if your dish is a little smaller the jubes will just be a little thicker). Pour in the mix (try to keep the cling film smooth) and leave to set somewhere cool – no need to refrigerate. It will take a few hours.

5. Once set, turn the tray out onto baking paper dusted with castor sugar and carefully peel off the cling film. Use a sharp knife dipped in hot water to cut the jelly into shapes and sizes of your liking. Roll in castor sugar just before serving.

Makes about 40

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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